Social media, the final career-squasher

Secret life your resume may well be spellchecked and shiny on the finest heavy-stock paper you could find, but 56% of employer is almost certainly going to augment that in order by peeking under the covers and into your potentially grimy little social life.

That’s part of the answer that psychologists at UK commerce psychology firm OPP are presenting this week at the British Psychological Society meeting on work-related psychology. One of the papers they’ll be presenting covers the findings of a 2011 study into the use of social network sites such as Face book, LinkedIn and Twitter.

An OPP post particulars other tasty figures about how their respondents – 1,000 people of working age in the UK and Ireland – use social media.

Here are some more stats:

56% of respondents said that they were likely to check out the social media presence of potential employees (although 27% of those surveyed said they would be uncomfortable with the same being done to them). On the flipside, 37% of people said they change their persona online – so looking at their online presence may be misleading anyway.

OPP points to recent instance of people getting into hot water over social media use. One such is the case of John Flexman, a previous HR executive who parted ways with his corporation in June 2011 after he posts his CV and checked off the “Career opportunities” box on his LinkedIn profile.

The Telegraph noted that Mr. Flexman is thought to be the first person in the UK to transport a case for constructive taking away from office over the dispute with his boss. The shores of the U.S., of course, are beleaguered with the flotsam of social media collision, chiefly if you include sexting, Craig’s List and elected officials.

Some sample of well-known people whose internet-enabled frolicking have cause them to link the world’s unemployed population:

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, previous duck voice for the advertisement of U.S. insurance company Aflac, can in March 2011 after callously tweeting about Japan’s tremor tragedy.

Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), submissive in June 2011 after sexting a photo of his underwear-tented erection to a 21-year-old he contact via Craig’s List (aka Weinergate).

April 2009: Two Domino’s Pizza employees add mucus and intestinal gas to food preparation, post a documentary video of it on YouTube (since removed), and wind up ablaze and in jail on charge on felony counts.

U.S. Rep. Chris Lee, (R-N.Y.), a “fit, fun, classy guy,” as he described himself while flirting with/sending a bare-chested photo of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist. The indiscretions of Mr. You Are So Not 39 include adultery and shaving seven years off his real age. Lee resigned in February 2011 within hours of Gawker revealing the sexting. To judge for yourself if he needs to shave other areas, check out ABC News’s coverage.

OPP has some good common sense advice on avoiding replicating these unseemly circumstances. Some excerpts of their advice:

Employees: Lock down your Facebook profile, and behave on LinkedIn as you would at a professional networking event (without the free bar!).

Employers: Misuse of social media could result in accusations of discrimination or unfair dismissal, or simply damage an organization’s reputation. Employers need to tread carefully to avoid breaking the law, avoiding racist, sexist or anti-religious biases that might surface, particularly when the online search may be done in confidential and not be recognized – which is a prime time for prejudice to occur.

Having a clearly affirmed policy on use of social networking sites in recruitment is crucial, as well as keeping complete records of how you came to decisions about who to interview and employ. But the crux of the advice is really to think, as for all selection method, whether the source of information is actually relevant in any way to the job being offered. If not, why use it?


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